Middle School Level Program
Our middle school group is a mixed age 7th and 8th grade class. The group’s home base is upstairs with their core teacher. They move through the building for various classes, working with all of the teachers. The middle school integrates with the rest of the school before the start of their Morning Meeting, and at recess, weekly All School Meeting, Wednesday Workshops and Mentors.
We have designed the middle school program to be a socially rich and nurturing community for young adolescents. The small, personal nature of Red Cedar, our culture of respect and inclusion, and the emphasis we place on developing each student’s voice, all give our middle school age students strong support for navigating the socially and emotionally challenging transition from childhood to adolescence.
The middle school academic program is designed to engage students in learning which is interactive and rigorous, help them begin the transition to the greater independence of high school, and start laying the foundation for college. To this end, our program emphasizes personal initiative, complex thinking and communication.
Students have free time inside or outside for hanging out, games, sports, projects or reading.
8:30 Morning Meeting
Each group begins with a Morning Meeting to focus on community building and to orient for the day. In middle school, Morning Meeting provides a time for students to talk within the group about themselves, their relationships, the values that are important to them, their leadership role in the school, and issues within the group. We also talk about current events, plan for upcoming trips, and play group-building games. Everyone gathers for an All-School Meeting once a week.
Middle school students participate in a math class best suited to their individual level. Many students take high school algebra and some high school geometry. At the pre-algebra level, we work with the Prentice Hall program for concept development, draw on a range of supplementary resources to build skills and fluency, and integrate math and science projects to apply mathematical thinking. At the high school algebra level, we work with the University of Chicago math program.
10:15 Science and Social Studies and the Arts
Through the year, we engage in a series of intensive inquiries in the areas of science and social studies. We integrate academic study and hands-on experiences to inspire curiosity and foster understanding.
In social studies, we focus on historic time periods and themes, current events, citizenship, and social issues. We utilize primary documents, news sources, commentary, literature, film, guest speakers, and field visits. Students explore ideas and communicate their thinking through class discussion, writing, research projects, oral presentations, debate, drama and the arts.
In science, middle school students explore topics in the areas of biology, human anatomy, environmental science, earth science, chemistry, physics, and current issues in science. Classes are active in nature and involve students in hands-on lab and fieldwork, experiential projects, content reading, critical examination of controversial issues, writing that develops analytical thinking, participation in scientific research, and service learning projects.
The arts are largely integrated into projects in the content areas. Students draw to heighten observation and express understanding. Various art forms are taught and explored in connection with specific projects. Examples include anatomy drawings, mapping biogeography and biomes, building hanging wooden bird mobiles, rendering hand drawn maps in a social studies project, creating Rube Goldberg type contraptions while studying physics, or developing a play as part of a language arts project. Workshops in the arts are also offered regularly as part of our Wednesday Workshops. Examples of arts workshops include silkscreen printing, jazz improvisation, portrait drawing, water color painting, cartooning and environmental sculpture.
11:30 Language Arts
12:30 Lunch and Free Time
1:30 Independent Reading
Students read for a half hour each day at school, and a minimum of a half hour daily at home (many students read beyond the half hour at home). We want reading to become a habit and a way of life. During independent reading time, a teacher confers individually with students, and tracks book choices and progress.
Mondays: Sports & Games
We play sports and games that develop physical stamina, strength and coordination, and which encourage cooperation and friendly competition. During the winter months we skate and play hockey on our ice rink, sled on our hill out back, and undertake day long wilderness adventures, exploring on snow shoes or yak tracks, or cross country skiing.
Each younger student in the school is paired with an older student and given support to form a yearlong relationship. Partners work with each other on projects, read together and play games. Partners sit together at All School Meeting and other special gatherings, and pair up during field trips for the whole school. These relationships are significant for both the older students—who are developing leadership skills and the ability to empathize with and support others—and the younger students—who appreciate the security and nurture that having an older student look out for them and take an interest in them provides. Older-younger partners often seek each other out each day.
Inspired by the Chautauqua movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s that was based on the concept of life-long learning, we invite people from the area who are doing interesting things to come in and give an interactive presentation, or we go and visit them.
Students choose between participation in a music ensemble that emphasizes improvisation and musical conversation, and choral singing.
We offer middle school students the option of studying a second language through the online Middlebury Interactive Language program. We set them up at their appropriate level, support them with dealing with technical and logistical issues, and track their progress.
Wednesday Workshops 1:30 – 2:45
On Wednesday afternoons, students all participate in workshops that typically last for a four-week session. Teachers, some older students, and community members lead these. Students choose a workshop among those that are offered for each month-long session. Workshops are offered in the arts, handcrafts and living arts, outdoor adventure, and other experiential learning opportunities. Many workshops take place outside.
Students help to clean and take care of the school, maintain the outdoor classroom, and work in the garden. Some of these jobs are included in workshops and projects. Others are attended to at the end of each day. We involve students in care of the school to develop ownership, personal responsibility, respect and stewardship.
Every student is expected to read for a minimum of a half hour each day for homework. Middle school students additionally have up to an hour combined of math, writing, and project work for social studies or science. We find that homework enables a depth of learning and an ownership of learning that invigorates our students’ experiences. We give homework that relates directly to what we are doing during the school day, and homework that has clear meaning and purpose. We work with students to give homework that they can manage independently.
Sharing of Learning
Students periodically share their learning with the school community, including other students and the parents. This takes the form of oral presentations, visual displays, projects, multi-media presentations, writing, art, handwork, and the performance of short plays, poetry and dialogues.
Arts Immersion Week
For a week during mud-season in March each year we turn every classroom into an art studio and immerse in the arts. Students choose among weeklong morning and afternoon workshops. Recent Arts Week offerings have included short plays, portrait drawing, Japanese culture, video making, sewing with felt, fashion design, small boats & whirligigs, the art of Colombian cooking, pottery and woodworking.
Wilderness and Cultural Trips
The middle school group undertakes a three day wilderness trip at the start of school each year. Recent trips have included canoeing at Green River Reservoir in Vermont and the Bog River Flow in the Adirondacks, and backpacking in the Green Mountains and the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness in the Adirondacks. In the spring we do a multi-day trip focused on culture and history or science. Recent trips have included Washington D.C., New York City, Cape Cod and Boston.